My name is Ken Opalo. I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford completing my dissertation under the direction of Prof. David Laitin (The other members of my Dissertation Committee are Professors James Fearon, Stephen Haber and Jeremy Weinstein).
My dissertation focuses on the political economy of institutional development. Specifically, I explore the determinants of the observed variation in the political strength and institutionalization of African legislatures since the end of the Cold War. My dissertation increases our understanding of the dynamics of contemporary institutional change, and in particular, how institutions of limited government can emerge from their autocratic foundations.
My findings also have practical policy implications for several ongoing legislative strengthening programs across the globe. Different organizations as varied as the Canadian Parliamentary Care, USAID, CIDA, Sida, DfiD, UNDP and the World Bank are involved in parliamentary strengthening programs in dozens of countries around the world under the banner of democracy promotion and institutional capacity building. Democracy assistance, a good part of which includes legislative strengthening, is now a $5 billion industry. My findings speak to possible ways through which legislative strengthening programs can either complement or detract from the larger goal of democracy promotion and consolidation.
Over the last 5 years I have been fortunate to be able to mix my graduate training with practical experiences consulting for the Kofi Annan Foundation (on elections, democracy and security), the World Bank (on natural resources and shared regional infrastructure) and working with other partners at the IPRE Group on an impact evaluation project in Ghana. I am passionate about real world policy issues that touch on development and my writings on these issues have appeared on the African Development Bank’s blog, the Monkey Cage, Al Jazeera America and Foreign Policy. I have also appeared on interviews with the BBC and Al Jazeera.
I am a native of Nairobi, Kenya (also know as the best city in the world, with a National Park 15 minutes from downtown) who loves to travel and have worked, visited or conducted research in more than 10 different African countries in the eastern, southern and western parts of the Continent.
I am a proud alum of Mang’u High School and got my BA from Yale.
You can also find me on twitter.
In my spare time I like to travel, read and write. I love trains.